It can be difficult to witness the signs of ageing in our parents and it can seem very intimidating to talk about it. Those who took care of us when we were young now begin to need support and we wonder how this transition will progress. With a little forethought and preparation we can make this transition much easier to manage.
Prepare for the Conversation
Your first port of call in your supporting role is to research what options are available. The better informed you are, the more easily you can present options as your discussion about care evolves. Consider what services are available in your area, from simple help with chores via daily visits, through to full time at-home care options and residential care in your local area.
Assess Your Own Needs Too
On a personal level, these things can sneak up on us and it is important to pay attention to the impact caring for an elderly relative has on our own lives. You may find that at the outset you can help with a great deal, but as your loved one becomes more dependent this can become more of a challenge. We may feel upset to see our parent or relative decline physically or psychologically and this can impact on our own emotional well-being. Put some thought into the balance between offering the help you are able to give and enlisting outside support. Don’t be afraid to explore different possibilities as knowing your options can support you in managing more effectively in the present day.
Now it’s time to raise the topic of care with your parent, so how do we begin? Keep in mind that this may take your loved one some time to process, or it might be something they have already thought about a lot. Gear the conversation towards listening to what they feel, to their concerns and preferences, and try to express your concerns and sow ideas without demanding immediate confirmation. If their reaction is initially negative don’t panic. Possible solutions do not have to be decided immediately and in time they will likely shift their perspective. Be prepared that this topic may be emotionally triggering for you too. Keeping things positive is the best approach so take care to initiate the discussion in an open and relaxed way.
Focusing On The Positive
The subject of elderly care can be a taboo, but it is something that we can reframe in a much more positive light. For example many people don’t think twice about hiring a cleaner and this is a great concept to use when approaching at-home care. If your loved one is having difficulty with daily chores like dressing or bathing alone, they may benefit from a care provider to visit in the morning to help them with starting the day. You might arrange support with grocery shopping, or help in the evening to prepare a hot dinner and get ready for bed. Try to explain these types of support as something liberating rather than any kind of defeat. A carer in the home can enable your elderly relative to maintain their lifestyle and independence, (be it with a little help), for much longer. They might even enjoy the social contact of having someone else around!
Planning a Transition
In the same way that introducing care into the house gradually can be a useful tool, if you are approaching the need for full time live-in care you can propose bringing a carer into the house for a week or two as a sort of holiday. The idea that the support is only temporary can make it less intimidating for your elderly relative and give them the chance to get comfortable with having someone new in their space. If considering residential care, this can also be a fantastic start. A temporary stay in a residential care home can take the stigma away as your loved one discovers that a more social, supported environment may not be so bad after all.
What to do if your elderly relative responds negatively
If your loved one is resistant to the idea of help, ask them why and try to address their concerns head on. Explain calmly that you are worried about them, pointing out concern over things like injury, deterioration in self care, missing medication or being unable to get about alone. Seek out a trusted friend or family member to talk with them further, and if you know anyone who has already enlisted a care professional, perhaps they could help to explain the process further and provide reassurance. This is never an easy adjustment, and negative reactions are completely understandable.
Once everyone is on board
Finding the right carer is a very personal thing so once your elderly loved one is on board with the idea; make sure to include them in the process. Remember, your care service provider will be ready to answer questions, and suggest the level of care required over time, as they will be adept at working with elderly clients as well as family members. Making the most of the high quality support that is available will allow you and your loved one to get the very best out of your relationship whilst sharing the burden of ageing with dignity.